Telcos New Service Steps Up VOIP Functionality over Wi-Fi

A Wi-Fi IP Phone? No, a PBX Extension! Ecuity's souped-up hosted IP PBX will prove a good working lab for the mobile, multimodal edge of the VOIP frontier-and the softphone client also can be run from laptops over both wired and wireless LANs.

Think about using a Pocket PC to make and take phone calls over a Wi-Fi link.

Dial using a small-screen keypad with a stylus. Click on clearly marked buttons to transfer calls or put them on hold. Now, think about that Pocket PC/IP phone as a remote extension off a corporate PBX.

Not just any PBX, but the new souped-up IP kind of PBX whose extensions, in concert with a browser interface, show you whos available to chat or phone and lets you click to dial out of call logs, buddy lists and contact lists.

Imagine a Web interface that lets you pick up voice mails as e-mails, set call-forwarding options, display caller ID pop-ups with a name, and choose to accept the call or send it to voice mail.

Thats part of the idea behind a new service announced July 29 by Ecuity Inc., a 17-year-old telephone company headquartered in Bellevue, Wash. Branded with a confusing combination of names—Smart Call V-Tone Office PBX—its particular new wrinkle is the Wi-Fi-optimized softphone client that fits on a Pocket PC, called SymPhone. This software client comes from another Bellevue-based company called TeleSym Inc.


I first tried SymPhone software during a noisy IT Expo in San Diego in 2002. Using an HP iPAQ to dial a VOIP call through TeleSyms own IP switch in Bellevue, it connected to another iPAQ across the exhibit hall. The voice quality of that call far outstripped the cellular call we tried immediately afterward.

Symphone, Ecuity vice president of sales Jerry Schwartz explains, was designed from the ground up to operate over Wi-Fi networks, and to compensate for levels of packet loss that would disconnect other wireless calls.

It does not use a typical G.711 codec, which, at 64kbps, is the richest form of voice digitization typically used to drive voice over data lines. Since 64kbps is the uncompressed bandwidth of a digitized but unpacketized PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) call, its fair to assume that SymPhones take on VOIP is a "wideband" technology that captures more frequencies than PSTN. When first shown to me by then-TeleSym product manager Pat Boyle, it could transmit music at fairly high fidelity.

SymPhone is also not to be confused with a Skype download, say, which also will run on an iPAQ.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read more about Motorola Inc.s CN620 phone.

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